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Wednesday, 31 May, 2000, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
A passion for politics
Dafydd Wigley
Dafydd Wigley, speaking in the National Assembly
Dafydd Wigley has been an influential voice within Plaid Cymru for more than a quarter of a century, overseeing the party transform into a modern political force in Wales.

His passion, energy and commitment to the party's goals saw Plaid make significant electoral gains in recent years, notably at the National Assembly and local government elections in 1999.

Mr Wigley's tenure as president will be seen as one of the most successful spells in the party's history.

Born in Derby in April 1943, he was educated at Caernarfon Grammar School and at Rydal School, Colwyn Bay, before later studying physics at Manchester University.

It was there where he first ventured into politics, setting up a Welsh society.

He campaigned for Plaid Cymru from an early age and featured among the crowds celebrating Gwynfor Evans's arrival at Westminster after his breakthrough victory in Carmarthen's by-election in 1966.

He became a member of Plaid's research group, which was set up after Gwynfor Evans's victory.

Dafydd Wigley
Influential figure: Led the party to success
After marrying Elinor Bennett at Llanuwchllyn in 1967, he went on to work as an industrial economist before being selected by his party as a parliamentary candidate in July 1970 for the seat of Meirioneth.

He missed out on that occasion, coming second with 23.4% of the vote, while Gwynfor Evans lost the Carmarthen seat he had won in 1966.

In 1972, he became Plaid Cymru district councillor in Merthyr and was later chosen that year as Plaid's parliamentary candidate for Arfon.

Greatest disappointment

But it was a further two years before his political ambitions were realised, when he won the Arfon seat in February 1974.

Typically, his second speech delivered to the House of Commons was on devolution for Wales.

He shared in the party's greatest disappointment on 1 March 1979 when his dream of devolution was heavily rejected by the Welsh electorate with only one in five voters in favour of a Welsh assembly in a referendum.

He went on to serve two terms as president of Plaid Cymru, from 1981 and most recently from 1991.

Mr Wigley set about taking on the task of modernising Plaid's industry policy into one of attractinginternational investment.

Fierce advocate

In the Commons, his broad range of interests became more focused on key roles as a member of the Select Committee of Welsh Affairs in 1983-1987 and as vice-chairman of the All-Party Disablement Group.

Two of his sons died of a rare genetic disease and he took a strong personal view on the importance of embryo research.

Yes Vote
Mr Wigley campaigned hard for devolution
He became regarded as a fierce advocate of disability rights and medical research and was outspoken in 1985 about the Embryo Research Bill.

He became so angry about a procedural point debating the bill that he banged the arm of the Speaker's chair and broke it off.

He was also later expelled from the Commons for five days in 1987 after a protest.

'Yes' vote

In 1992, he published his autobiography ,'O Ddifri' and a sequel, 'Dal Ati', followed in 1993.

The 1997 general election saw the Tories wiped out in Wales but Plaid's vote remained virtually unchanged at 10%, with the party retaining the four seats they had acquired during the previous parliament.

In the devolution referendum of September 1997, Mr Wigley campaigned hard for a 'Yes' vote, working closely with the then Labour Welsh Secretary Ron Davies.

Wales voted 'Yes', albeit narrowly, and the first National Assembly elections in May 1999 brought the high water mark for the party so far.

Plaid won 17 of the 60 seats, becoming the second-biggest party in the assembly, and picking up some seats in Labour's south Wales heartlands.

They also made big gains in the local council elections held on the same day.

Mr Wigley won the assembly seat for Caernarfon, becoming a dual-mandate AM and MP and becoming leader of the opposition to Labour's minority administration.

Mr Wigley earned lengthy applause at the party's last annual conference, as Plaid celebrated their electoral gains and looked to the future.

But poor health led to heart surgery in December 1999 and he only returned to light duties a month later, delegating some of his responsibilities to colleagues.

He had announced his intention to step down from the Commons at the next general election to concentrate on leading the party in the assembly.

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15 Apr 00 | Wales
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